Trans people exist. It’s a simple point, but very hard to convince the anti-trans campaigners. How would you feel if a priest said to you, “I’m glad you are here. Please come say hello; I would love to hear more about your perspective and experience”? It might be enough for a Christian trans person to feel welcome, and want to join that community. It is what we know. But it is gaslighting: the theology professor suggesting it wants the priest to convince the trans person of the “Catholic understanding of reality”.
Her explanation of that reality is crude. She actually relies on Genesis: sexual difference as fixed and God-given. But she thinks she is being inclusive, and approaching trans people “with a spirit of generous curiosity: What truth will I find here?”
The problem is she believes in “gender theory”. We are not trans, really: we simply have false beliefs. Now I get that completely. I believe I am a woman, and many say I am not. Surely I could be persuaded otherwise? Or, I want to be a woman, but could be told that is impossible?
The point of being trans is that persuasion does not work. Tell me that someone born with testicles, a Y chromosome and a penis is not a woman, and I redefine the word “woman”. I understand why the denier might believe that. It makes a certain sort of sense. But I still believe I am a woman. I still want to be a woman.
Trans people exist. Trans women are people born with testicles who want to be women or believe they are women, who desire to transition and so do that. Before I transitioned, I really wanted to believe that I was “not really trans” and therefore should not transition, and I wanted to get rid of the desire, which because of internalised transphobia I thought repellent and ridiculous. But I failed. So I transitioned, and twenty years later am still transitioned.
Trans people exist. We’re the ones who want to transition and stay transitioned. We get how others feel this is ridiculous, but however cogent the arguments are against, we still want to stay transitioned. You can’t argue or persuade us out of it. Eventually, one would hope the anti-trans campaigners would realise that, and stop trying the arguments that don’t work- but they don’t.
So the “theory” or ideology, the false understanding of the world, is not trans people’s, but the anti-trans campaigners’. Our understanding accepts that trans people exist. Theirs doesn’t. They think, contrary to all the evidence, that we should simply be persuaded that we are wrong, and so detransition.
That theologian, Abigail Favale, believes “there is a givenness to the created order”- that is, that the real world has reality humans just have to accept. She thinks that means that trans women are men. But what it really means is that trans people exist.
She is not above taking arguments from the “feminist” anti-trans campaigners. Women’s lives, she says, are “contoured by the facticity of femaleness”. I think she means if you don’t have a womb you’re not a woman, though elsewhere she writes that being born a woman without a uterus is a “sex-specific” difference of sexual development, so that the person is still a woman.
In her world, the person welcomed by that priest would accept “the Catholic view of reality” and presumably stop taking hormones or seeking surgery. Would they be happy? She does not address the question. They would simply be conforming. Would Favale even notice they were miserable and unfulfilled? So, when we leave, and find a community that accepts us, Favale would be sad and uncomprehending, imagining we are mired in sin and delusion.
Trans people exist. Anti-trans campaigners can’t see that. Perhaps they’re only trying to persuade cis people- but then, they do not care about us at all, except as a problem they want to go away.